Blue Flower

FEDERAL TREASURER'S SPEECH ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Editor's note:  Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison MP gave the following address in the House of Representatives during the same-sex marriage debate. Whilst we know that same-sex marriage was subsequently legalised I believe it is important to know how at least one of our national leaders fought to protect our religious freedom.

 


"I was amongst the 39 percent that voted for the traditional view of marriage to be maintained. As a nation we must now move forward in grace and love, as my Christian faith teaches us. I will respect the democratic outcome of this Australian Marriage survey, both nationally and in my own community, by not standing in the way of this Bill. However, with the closure of one debate, a new one commences. This new debate is not about opposing same sex marriage, it is about sensibly protecting religious freedoms. There are almost five million Australians that voted no in this survey who are now coming to terms with the fact that on this issue, they are a minority. That did not used to be the case in the Australia they have lived all or most of their lives in. They have concerns that their broader views and their broader beliefs are also in the minority and therefore under threat. And they are seeking assurances at this time.

 

Assurances, rightly or wrongly, that the things that they hold dear are not under threat also because of this change. On the night of the first referendum to establish our federation in June 1898, Alfred Deakin prayed 'thy blessing has rested on us here yesterday and we pray that it may be the means of creating and fostering throughout Australia a Christlike citizenship'. In an earlier speech campaigning in Bendigo for the Federation he quoted a local poet defining the true Australian goal of Federation as for 'us to arise, united, penitent, and be one people, mighty, serving God'.


Our Constitution went on to proclaim ... WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth... with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. Then in S116 our Constitution deliberately afforded a protection 'that the Commonwealth shall not make any law... for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.' This is the religious inheritance of our Federation, our Constitution, from more than a century ago. If we ever act in dissonance with these founding principles, it will be to our peril. This is not to say that Australia is a nation with an established state religion. It is not. We are thankfully free of such a restriction on our liberty.

 

Such freedom though should not be used as a weapon against the importance of faith, belief and religion in our society, or as a justification to drive faith and religion from our public square. At the same time, protection of religious freedoms cannot be used as a cloak for religious extremism, that undermines our freedoms. We may be a secular state, but we are not a Godless people to whom faith, belief and religion are not important. Quite the contrary. It is deeply central to the lives of millions of Australians. In my own church, like many others, we refer to Australia as the great south land of the Holy Spirit. Whether you raise your hands, bow to your knees, face the holy city, light incense, a candle or the menorah, faith matters in this country, and we cannot allow its grace and peace to be diminished, muffled or driven from the public square.

 

Separation of church and state, does not mean the inoculation of the influence of faith on the state. The State shouldn't run the church and the church shouldn't run the State. In fact, separation of church and state was set up to protect the church from the State, not the other way around. To protect religious freedoms. As I argued in my maiden speech in this place, secularism, secular humanism, is no more our established state religion than any other. It is one of the many free views held by Australians. It holds no special place of authority in our Commonwealth. For millions of Australians, faith is the unshakable cornerstone of their lives. It informs their identity and provides a genuine sense of wellbeing. It is the reason why people can look beyond their own circumstances and see a greater purpose. For countless Australians, faith is life.

 

In my maiden speech to parliament almost ten years ago, I spoke of the two key influences on my life, my family and my faith. And how my faith in Jesus Christ was inherently personal, not political or preachy. As Christians we do not lay claim to perfection or moral precedence. In fact it is the opposite. Conscious of the frailties and vanities of our own human condition, Christians should be more conscious of the same amongst those around us. This is why faith encourages social responsibility, the bedrock of faith in action. The fragrance of faith has washed over society for centuries and helped to shape and mould it for the better. Our own nation was founded, built and undeniably shaped by Christian values, morals and traditions that helped to unite a fledgling country. A nation blessed and formed on Christian conviction.

 

These issues of faith are not only gifted to us by our Federation fathers, but the many generations of Australians who have come to us since, including those from non-Christian faiths and experience. But there was one thing that could never be stripped away, through a millennia of struggle. One thing that sustained these stoic (Maronite) communities. It wasn't the governments that came and went with the wind, it wasn't the leaders that so promised peace. It was their faith. A faith that routinely stared adversity in the face and prevailed. A faith that held families together. When everything else was a struggle, their faith stood strong. A faith that the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Maronite Australians brought with them to Australia from as early as the 1860s.


But so too did the many Greek Orthodox migrants, Coptic Christians from Egypt, still being persecuted in their home country today, Syrian Christians from both Orthodox and Catholic faiths and Armenians. And for the many Chinese, Korean and Filipino Australians, of Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian and Pentecostal faiths. Some brought their faith with them, others found it here in Australia. When most of these migrants came to Australia it was not the Government they first turned to, to assist them to adjust to their new life in Australia. It was their local church or other religious community. If you want to understand the strong opposition to changing our marriage act in western Sydney and elsewhere you must understand the central nature of faith and community to the lives of these and so many other Australians.

 

Nine out of the top ten electorates that voted No are represented by Labor members, and are comprised of the vibrant faith communities that I have just spoken of. I would urge them all of these Labor members to be freed up, released from any constraint, that would enable them to stand with their constituents now in supporting amendments that deliver the protections of religious freedoms that are currently absent from this Bill. To pretend this Bill is whole and satisfies their concerns is to confirm a lack of understanding and empathy for those who hold them. These Australians are looking for acknowledgement and understanding from this Parliament and their representatives. They are seeking assurance that changes being made to our marriage laws will not undermine the stability, and freedom of their faith and religious expression, what they teach their children, what their children are taught, the values they share and foster within their families, community, within and without their Church walls. This a reasonable request that this Parliament should support.

 

I commend the PM for initiating the Ruddock Review in protecting religious freedoms. Few people understand these communities and the issues and risks as well as the former Attorney. But that process is not, nor was it designed to be a substitute for sensible action now in this Bill. To fail to make improvements to this Bill now would demonstrate a failure to appreciate not only the underpinnings of our own liberal democracy and Federation, but the nature of modern multicultural Australia. I commend my colleagues both in the Senate and this house for standing firm on their convictions and beliefs; both representing their faith and those in their communities that share their values. I will be joining many of my colleagues in supporting amendments to be moved by the Members for Deakin, Mitchell, Canning and Mallee.

 

I will be joining them in moving amendments to ensure that no organization can have their public funding or charitable status threatened as a result of holding views that are consistent with the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman. The test of faith is the fruit that it produces. That is what Jesus taught in his parable of the fig tree. The fruit of faith based organizations has been extraordinary - Mission Australia, Wesley Mission, Caritas, Anglicare, Baptist Care, our religious schools, the many Christian organisations involved in providing pastoral support in our schools, their funding through grants and other programmes and support through our tax system must continue to be about what they achieve, not what they consider to be the definition of marriage. We need to ensure these protections are put in place. It is now time to pass a truly inclusive Bill that recognizes the views of 100% of Australians, not just the 61%, and I urge the House to not miss this opportunity."

 

Source: Scott Morrison MP

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HOW TO LIVE FAITHFULLY WHEN FREEDOM HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY

What can we do? This is a question I've been asked several times since we lost the plebiscite battle for the definition of marriage. Last week's rejection of freedom of speech by the Senate has sent shock waves through churches, mosques and Christian and Muslim schools. Just as it did in the Senate, Labor forced its parliamentarians to vote against all freedom amendments. With the Greens and the votes of pro-rainbow politics Liberals, it is highly unlikely any meaningful protections for freedom of speech and conscience will ever make it through the Parliament. It is lights out. Christians and Muslims now realise that to speak and teach that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman is to risk being fined under state-based anti-discrimination laws.

 

Pleas to provide a Commonwealth override of these laws and an anti-detriment shield so freedom of speech about marriage in Australia can continue were ruthlessly rejected by Labor, the Greens and a sizeable cohort of Liberal Senators. The acting leader of the National Party, Nigel Scullion (filling in for Barnaby Joyce) joined them. That conservative politicians have now joined the Left in suppressing freedom of speech is a tectonic shift in Australian politics. I can't understate how significant this is. The unthinkable is happening but much of the church is still asleep. It was not long ago that many Labor and all conservative parliamentarians would back free speech and freedom of religion to the hilt. Our nation is in uncharted waters.


The gay lobby likes to call anti-discrimination laws anti "hate speech" laws. That is what they think of any speech that does not affirm and celebrate the new definition of marriage. They now have a powerful legal weapon to silence Christian teaching about marriage. ACL's new Human Rights Law Alliance, a legal body set up to defend Christians in court, will be in high demand in future years. The reality of the intolerance of the rainbow political movement is starting to sink in as politicians use brutal legislative force to do the bidding of the rainbow political movement and quash the possibility of dissent. All this is in spite of the Yes campaign's assertions that our concerns about freedoms were "red herrings" and "furphies". It is clear that the Yes campaign was disingenuous in telling Australians that freedoms would not change.

 

It is now too late for freedom. The Ruddock review, announced by the Prime Minister as a consolation to the Parliament voting down freedom last week, will not result in the necessary legislative protections for freedom of speech and conscience. Australian politicians lack the political will to preserve the most basic of human rights. From this week, freedoms that Australians have taken for granted will be gone. This is chilling. Pastors and imams, teachers and wedding service providers who wish to remain faithful will be on tenterhooks. I am already getting calls from worried people in the Christian school movement and wedding service provider industries. I've even spoken to the chairman of a large Islamic school whose school community parents are worried.


Some brave Christians will choose to break the law and keep speaking and teaching boldly about marriage without compromise. I predict that most will choose silence and acquiescence. In some ways, I don't blame them. The cost of speaking the truth is high and will be increasingly so. Sadly, this was avoidable. ACL has been urging the church to speak for 17 years. Asking what we can do now is the wrong question after decades of silence when one's opponents have taken up the tools of democracy to prosecute their cause. Those same tools of democracy,  speaking in the public square, supporting advocacy groups like ACL, joining political parties and voting in pre-selections to make sure people with the right values got into Parliament, were and still are available to us if only we would use them.

 

I am grateful to everyone who rallied to the Coalition for Marriage, we were able to give marriage and freedom a strong defence. But 30 years of silence could not be undone in three months. I do believe though, that in the long term, our efforts will not be in vain. I sincerely hope that the tens of thousands of you who donated, prayed and volunteered feel the same. This is a wake-up call. It is not the end. It is the beginning of a freshly galvanised movement to keep speaking up for the truth. But the question Christians need to be asking now is how do we remain faithful, even if it means being fined for our beliefs about marriage. If we think last week's decision by Labor, the Greens and a cohort of Liberals to take away freedom of speech and conscience on marriage is where it will stop, we are naive. This is a new era of pressure.

 

The great Czech playwright, resistance leader and political prisoner Vaclav Havel's 1978 essay "The Power of the Powerless" electrified Eastern European resistance movements. Havel said that if we "live within the lie" we collaborate with the system, in his case the atheistic communist system, and we compromise our full humanity. The answer to the question "what do we do now?" is "refuse to live within the lie". This will be costly. But what choice do we have? Despite the loss, it was a joy to fight for marriage as part of the Coalition for Marriage and to see a movement of determined people rise up. This is not the end, but the beginning of a new phase. Let's together resolve to keep shining the light of the Christ child's truth in 2018 and beyond. God bless you. 

 

Source: by Lyle Shelton Managing Director Australian Christian Lobby

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NO VOTE MPs PUT PRESSURE ON RUDDOCK

The pushback to same-sex marriage has begun with No-voting MPs seeking to influence a review of religious freedoms led by former Liberal attorney-general Philip Ruddock. Conservatives said the substance of unsuccessful amendments to protect religious freedoms, defeated during the debate on the gay marriage bill, needed to be revisited by the Ruddock review or risk being seen as an affront to No voters. South Australian Liberal senator David Fawcett, who helped devise five of the unsuccessful amendments to the bill, has signalled his interest in resurrecting his changes through the expert panel review. "My involvement in the Senate committee, which I chaired, led me to become one of the leading advocates for amendments for protections in the actual same-sex marriage bill. Senator Fawcett said. "I'll be looking to work with Mr Ruddock and the government to ensure protections are put in place."

 

Labor MP Chris Hayes, who used his speech in the House of Representatives to argue for religious freedoms to be examined in the Ruddock review, said there was a need to consider enshrining Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Australian law to better uphold religious liberty. "I think there's some utility in investigating the application or bringing into Australian domestic law the tenants of Article 18 of that convention," he said. "I would think that it would be one of the areas that the expert panel might care to look at." Other Coalition MPs who supported religious freedom amendments voiced concern they had not been consulted over the decision to announce the expert panel, which includes Australian Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, retired judge Annabelle Bennett and Jesuit priest Frank Brennan.

 

"The inquiry panel was selected without consultation and largely reflects the biases and relationships of the Yes voting cabinet members," one Coalition MP said. "I hold little hope after a close look at the voting patterns of both the Senate and the Reps with respect to the amendments being revisited." A spokesman for the postal survey No campaign said supporters of traditional marriage remained "hopeful but extremely concerned" about whether religious freedom protections would be secured through the Ruddock review, which is due to report at the end of March. "Not only has there been a lack of consultation, there is no clear understanding that this process will lead to an actual legislative outcome that provides protections for Australians of faith," the spokesman said.

 

The spokesman continued "The absence of a prominent No voice on the inquiry is of concern, and does not send a positive message to the millions and millions of No voters." Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he supported the Ruddock review, and schools should have the ability to "teach in accordance" with their religious world view. "Once we're out of the shadow of the marriage debate, the sorts of protections we talked about in the last parliamentary sitting week, I think it is proper for those to be considered," he said.

 

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS FACE DISCRIMINATION IN PRISON TOO

Pakistani Christians, often discriminated against because of their faith and standing as members of Pakistan's lowest caste, find that discrimination follows them in prisons as well. The justice system is extremely slow in Pakistan and, as a result, thousands of Pakistanis languish in overcrowded jails, having yet to face trial. As many Christians are accused of blasphemy only because of personal vendettas or vested interests, it takes years before courts absolve them of false charges. World Watch Monitor met several Christian inmates, who revealed that they are mistreated because of their religion. They said that as soon as it was revealed to other prisoners that they are Christian, the attitudes of other prisoners and officers towards them changed and they were treated as 'untouchables' and forced to clean the toilets.

Pastor Maurice Shahbaz, founder and director of the Prisons Mission Society of Pakistan, has been struggling for more than a year now to get permission for missionaries, evangelists and pastors to be allowed to visit prisons to share teaching with Christian inmates. Thousands of Pakistanis languish in overcrowded jails, having yet to face trial. Shahbaz, who lives in the north-eastern city of Gujranwala but helps Christian prisoners across the country, has appealed to Pakistan's Supreme Court to address the situation. "The former Inspector General, Mian Farooq Nazir, ordered in early 2016 to bar religious leaders and teachers from visiting prisons, which affects even their entitlement to a reduction of their sentence," Shahbaz told World Watch Monitor.

He explained that Article 215 of the 1978 Pakistan Prison Rules allows for the reduction of sentences based on the passing of educational exams or the obtaining of religious instruction, but that this is now harder to access. Deputy Inspector General Tariq Mehmood Khan Babar told World Watch Monitor that clerics have been prevented from visiting prisons since the National Action Plan was introduced in early 2015, following the December 2014 attack by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, when 132 schoolchildren were killed at the Army Public School in Peshawar. In January 2015, the government announced its National Action Plan, aimed at eradicating extremism, but the move in turn affected general freedom to worship. Social worker Yousuf Sodagar, who works with inmates at Kasur District Jail, says the prison administration has also reduced the number of times Christians are allowed to meet to worship.

"I was wrongly imprisoned in this jail," Sodagar recalls. "When the Jail Inspector General was visiting, I requested him to allow Christians to worship together. Since then the prison officials allowed the Christians to assemble twice a day for worship, but only about three months ago this practice has been stopped and they are allowed to meet only in the morning. "When I met the deputy superintendent of the Jail, he also said that Christian inmates should worship with decency and not with loud music. I told him that no-one can dictate to us how to worship and this is the most solemn aspect of our worship." However, Deputy Superintendent Tipu Sultan said he "cannot believe an official would use these words". "I know that after the National Action Plan, clerics of all religions are barred from visiting persons of their faith in prisons and this was not discrimination but a matter of security," he added.

Source: World Watch Monitor

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CALFORNIAN JUDGE RULES REFERRALS TO ABORTION CLINIC VIOLATES CONSTITUTION

The judge issued her ruling in a lawsuit filed in Riverside County Superior Court by The Scharpen Foundation challenging the California statute that requires prolife pregnancy centres to provide their patients the location and contact information for local abortion clinics. In its decision, the Court found that "the FACT Act violates Article I, Section 2 of the California Constitution."  Judge Gloria Trask explained, "Here, the State commands clinics to post specific directions for whom to contact to obtain an abortion. It forces the clinic to point the way to the abortion clinic and can leave patients with the belief they were referred to an abortion provider by that clinic. In Scharpen's case that would be inaccurate, profoundly inaccurate."

Moreover, Judge Trask ruled that, "The State can deliver its message without infringing upon anyone's liberty. It may purchase television advertisements as it does to encourage Californians to sign up for Covered California or to conserve water. It may purchase billboard space and post its message directly in front of Scharpen Foundation's clinic." "Compelled speech must be subject to reasonable limitation," continued Judge Trask. "The statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the state has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message. In this case, however virtuous the State's ends, they do not justify its means." "We are thrilled with Judge Trask's ruling, which is a huge victory for free speech," said Scott Scharpen, founder and president of The Scharpen Foundation, which operates the Go Mobile for Life pregnancy clinic. 

He added, "The whole notion of being compelled to share information with our patients about abortion availability, which is contrary to our mission and purpose, is fundamentally wrong. Lives will be saved because of this ruling." With funding raised by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a non-profit legal defence organization, Tyler & Bursch's lawyers strategically filed the lawsuit in state court because the California State Constitution provides greater free speech protection than the First Amendment. Attorney Robert Tyler of Tyler & Burch, LLP, counsel for the Scharpen Foundation, lauded, "It is a great day in California because we know that freedom of speech is still a protected constitutional right. Judge Trask is absolutely correct that the State can't force a pro-life clinic to advertise abortions on behalf of the State and its abortion mills." 

He continued, "If the State Attorney General appeals, we will continue to defend our client's pro-life speech all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court." The ruling established that "Compelled speech of a political or cultural nature is not the tool of a free government." Essentially, "The legislature may not use the wall of the physician's office as a billboard to advertise the availability of low cost abortions." Nada Higuera, the attorney who argued the case, said: "As a young female and defender of speech, I am thrilled to know that our work is not in vain. I've regrettably had an abortion. And I've just recently experienced the incomparable joy of having a baby. I wish I would have had the opportunity to visit a pro-life clinic when I was just 16 years old and contemplating an abortion." The ruling provides injunctive relief statewide and prevents the law from being enforced effective immediately.

Source: LifesSiteNews

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MAJORITY OF AMERICANS CLAIM POLITICALLY CORRECT CULTURE SILENCES DEBATE

The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, a new national poll of 2,300 U.S. adults, finds that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have. The consequences are personal, 58% of Americans believe the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say colleges and universities aren't doing enough to teach young Americans today about the value of free speech. When asked which is more important, 65% say colleges should expose students to "all types of viewpoints even if they are offensive or biased against certain groups." About a third (34%) say colleges should "prohibit offensive speech that is biased against certain groups."

Two-thirds (65%) say colleges need to discipline students who disrupt invited speakers and prevent them from speaking. However, the public is divided about how: 46% want to give students a warning, 31% want the incident noted on the student's academic record, 22% want them to pay a fine, 20% want to suspend them, 19% favour arresting the students, 13% want to fully expel the students. Three-fourths (75%) of Republicans support some form of punishment for these students, compared to 42% of Democrats. The survey finds that many micro-aggressions colleges and universities advise faculty and students to avoid aren't considered offensive by most people of colour. The one micro-aggression that African Americans (68%) agree is offensive is telling a racial minority "you are a credit to your race."

Nearly two-thirds (65%) say colleges shouldn't advise students about offensive Halloween costumes and should instead let students work it out on their own. A third (33%) think it is the responsibility of the university to remind students not to wear costumes that stereotype racial or ethnic groups at off-campus parties. Americans tend to oppose firing people for their beliefs. Nevertheless, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say a business executive should be fired if she or he believes transgender people have a mental disorder (44% vs 14%), that homosexuality is a sin (32% vs 10%), and that psychological differences help explain why there are more male than female engineers (34% vs. 14%). Conversely, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say a business executive should be fired if they burned the American flag at a weekend political protest (54% vs. 38%).

Source: Cato Institute

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USA ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION LOWEST IN 45 YEARS BUT IMMIGRANT POPULATION HIGHEST EVER

Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that when the final 2017 numbers are completed they will show that illegal immigration is at a 45-year low. McAleenan credits President. Trump's clear message that U.S. immigration law will be enforced for this historic decline. "We are fully tallying our 2017 results but in all likelihood it's going to be the lowest level of illegal crossings between ports of entry in over 45 years," the acting chief told the Senate Finance Committee. The result was surprising since the beginning of the year showed a new surge of illegal aliens coming across the border. Once President Trump took office the numbers dropped dramatically. McAleenan pushed support for Trump's 70-point immigration principles saying those are the kind of changed need to make sure these numbers continue to drop.

"The clear intent to enforce immigration law has resulted in a significant reduction of crossings, but there are still some fundamental aspects of the system that need to be addressed," he testified. At the same time the immigrant population (legal and illegal) in the U.S. hit a record high of 43.7 million in July 2016. This is an increase of half a million since 2015, an increase of 3.8 million since 2010, and 12.6 million since 2000. Other findings include: As a share of the U.S. population, immigrants (legal and illegal) comprised 13.5%, or one out of eight U.S. residents in 2016, the highest percentage in 106 years. As recently as 1980, just one out of 16 residents was foreign-born. Between 2010 and 2016, 8.1 million new immigrants settled in the United States. 

New arrivals are offset by the roughly 300,000 immigrants who return home each year and annual natural mortality of about 300,000 among the existing foreign-born population. As a result, growth in the immigrant population was 3.8 million 2010 to 2016. In addition to immigrants, there were slightly more than 16.6 million U.S.-born minor children with an immigrant parent in 2016, for a total of 60.4 million immigrants and their children in the country. Immigrants and their minor children now account for nearly one in five U.S. residents.

Source: Intercessors for America

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HOME ABORTION PILLS COULD BE CHALLENGED IN COURTS

The Scottish Government could face a legal challenge over its controversial decision to allow women to take abortion pills at home. While pro-choice campaigners welcomed the move, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) Scotland fiercely opposed the policy change and is reportedly consulting lawyers. Chief executive John Deighan branded the decision "highly irresponsible" and claimed ministers may have "recklessly exceeded their powers". Christian charity CARE also condemned the "significant policy shift" and said it raised huge concerns for women's safety and mental wellbeing. Nola Leach, CARE's Chief Executive said in a statement: ""For the Scottish Government to make a policy change of this magnitude without any parliamentary scrutiny or public consultation is deeply concerning."

"Encouraging women to have abortions at home is extremely worrying. There will be no health care support on hand should something go wrong." "The Scottish Government should do much more to provide real alternatives to abortion for those facing crisis pregnancies. It should properly fund those organisations which are seeking to provide such alternatives for women." Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, recently confirmed she had written to all health boards north of the border to say that the drug misoprostol could be taken by women outside a clinical setting. Dr Calderwood said it was ''significant progress'' that women in Scotland who are up to nine weeks pregnant could take the second dose of the drug at home if they wanted, saying this would allow them "more privacy, more dignity''.

Source: LifeSiteNews

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CHRISTMAS RETURNS TO THE WHITE HOUSE

President Trump has unveiled his administration's first White House holiday card, and it's starkly different from the greetings sent by his predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Trump's card specifically references "Christmas," a word that has been noticeably absent from White House holiday cards in recent years. In fact, the card reads, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" and is signed by Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and the couple's son, Barron. And, as a side note, there's also a nativity inside the White House, as evidenced in a video featuring Melania Trump. In the past, White House holiday cards have sparked quite a bit of debate, with some critics lashing out over the absence of "Christmas" and over the inclusion of more benign messages from Obama and Bush that wished people happy holidays or "season's greetings".

Source: Breithart.com

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Have you visited our Web site? Australian Prayer Network

HEADS OF CHURCHES CHALLENGE POLITICAL LEADERS ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

The heads of many of Australia's Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches together with leaders of other Christian organisations and ministries have written an open letter to both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten sounding the alarm on the lack of religious freedoms included in a bill to legalise same sex marriage. The letter, sent last week, was signed by the most senior Church leaders in the country and appealed to both leaders to make good on their undertakings during the postal survey to uphold religious freedoms. The religious leaders warn that the Senate had "voted against amendments that aim to reasonably accommodate these matters" and argue the marriage bill due to be debated in the House of Representatives does not adequately address freedoms of conscience, belief and religion.  


South Australian Liberal Senator David Fawcett and his Victorian Senate colleague, James Paterson, unsuccessfully moved five amendments in the Senate last week to better protect faith-based charities, preserve parental rights and shield individuals from being targeted for continuing to uphold traditional marriage. The amendments were defeated on the floor of the Senate. A growing number of government frontbenchers in the lower house have indicated their intention to support some or all of the amendments by Senator Fawcett and Paterson including Treasurer Scott Morrison, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor.  During the postal survey on same sex marriage, Mr Turnbull said he believed in religious freedoms "even more strongly" than he did in same-sex marriage and promised to ensure it was adequately protected in the event of a Yes vote. Many of his own Coalition MPs believe he has betrayed them by not living up to his word, with some deriding the same sex marriage bill proposed by West Australian Senator Dean Smith, and which passed the upper-house on Wednesday,as resembling a Greens/Labor initiative. 

 

Here is a copy of the wording contained in the open letter sent to Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten.

Open Letter Concerning the Need for Adequate Protection of Freedoms in the Context of Same-Sex Marriage


The recent postal survey result has indicated that the will of a majority of Australians is to support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. Polling has shown, however, that regardless of voting intention, even more Australians support the Parliament's guaranteeing in law freedoms of conscience, belief and religion when it legislates for same-sex marriage.

We welcomed your respective independent undertakings, given during the postal survey, that such freedoms would be protected in the event of a Yes vote. Much turns, however, on what is enfolded within the content of those freedoms. The Senate has now voted against amendments that aim to reasonably accommodate these matters. We therefore write to voice our concern that the Bill now due for consideration by the House of Representatives does not address adequate consideration of these fundamental freedoms.

While our view is held in relation to a range of matters, the following are worthy of particular note.

1. The right of parents to ensure the education of their children in accordance with their religious and moral convictions.

2. The right of religious institutions to ensure that their facilities are used in accordance with their beliefs is not assured. Examples include the use of reception halls operated by churches, and associated services (such as catering or relationship counselling) and the use of chapels, halls or similar facilities within religious schools.

3. The internationally recognised rights of religious institutions to establish and maintain faith-based charities in accordance with their convictions is not assured.

4. The concern that charities that express a traditional view of marriage will lose their charitable status at law, as has occurred in other common law jurisdictions, is not addressed.

5. The rights of religious institutions to express their beliefs, provided that they do so in a way that respectfully engages with the wider community, is not protected.

6. The Bill before the House only provides transitional rights for existing celebrants, who are not ministers of religion, to act in accordance with their genuinely held religious or conscientious. We believe new celebrants should also be able to apply to be a traditional marriage celebrant into the future.

In particular, it is our view that the amendments to the Bill proposed by Senators Paterson and Fawcett in the Senate on 28 November 2017 provide balanced and reasonable measures that respond to such concerns, and many others, while also acquitting Australia's international obligations.


A change in the definition of marriage to permit same-sex couples to marry inevitably requires consideration of how that change will interact with existing rights held in the community. That consideration must be undertaken at the time of the change. To delay consideration of how the right of same-sex couples to marry will interact with the religious and conscientious freedoms of individuals and institutions in our community is to accept that it is permissible that those rights could be breached in the interim period until further legislation is progressed, if at all.


In addition, once the definition of marriage alters, the question immediately arises as to whether a charity that holds a traditional view of marriage will retain its charity status at law. In particular we note that the Acting Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner has indicated in his 24 November 2017 letter to Senator Smith that 'one way to address the concerns that have been raised may be to provide in the amending legislation that nothing in the legislation adversely affects an entity's charitable status by reason only that the entity holds or expresses a position on marriage.'  The amendments proposed by Senators Fawcett and Paterson address this concern. 


The majority decision of the United States Supreme Court in 2015 which recognised a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in that country, also acknowledged the view that 'marriage is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman, long has been held, and continues to be held, in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.'

A change in a social institution that is as fundamental as that of marriage has wide-ranging implications for our community. The amendments of Senators Fawcett and Paterson offer a reasonable means to unify our nation by effecting the will of the majority who voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while also incorporating the legitimate beliefs of those who are concerned for the protection of freedoms in our community.

Yours sincerely

Source: Coalition for Marriage and Press Reports

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A PARENT UNVEILS REAL AIM OF VICTORIA'S RELATIONSHIP EDUCATION

When humans seek to redefine (and ignore) biological truths, they start sliding down a slippery slope, one that ultimately leads to chaos. Here in Australia, we have our own real life example of this in action: the state of Victoria. Victoria has a dubious record when it comes to sex and relationships education. It is, after all, the birthplace of Safe Schools, a program which is now being incorporated into the state's curriculum. Safe Schools was introduced under the guise of 'anti-bullying.' Another similarly innocuous-sounding program, Building Respectful Relationships, was brought in under the umbrella of addressing gender-based violence. One concerned parent, whom we will identify as "Charlotte" has recounted her child's experiences of this "relationship education" a cover-up for blatant, radical sex education in the classroom from an early age.

Typically in those long ago days of five years ago, sexuality education began in Year Three. Some schools have in-house programs and others use approved providers like the above-mentioned Family Life Victoria.  These days, the lessons start younger, in Preps and Grade One, Charlotte provides an example of one of these lessons, as well as the dismissive response from the teacher:  Charlotte said "Last year, in Year Eight, for example, my child explained to me how she'd learned at school a month prior that it was okay to experiment sexually and she'd not get into trouble. There was no discussion of the legal age of consent nor of abstinence; not that she could recall. The message was that you could feel free to try anything you like. It's all good. Please note that I wasn't present, nor was this the exact wording from the teacher. This was the interpretation that my daughter took away from the lesson."

After classroom exercises dealing with the sexual behaviour of minors and the stereotyping of heterosexual fathers as being homophobic, I sent an email to her teacher explaining that I found the material offensive and derogatory towards fathers and I wanted to remove my child from the lesson. The teacher replied that as a heterosexual male he had no objection to the language used. The flippant attitude of the teacher is consistent with how Safe Schools creator, Marxist academic Roz Ward, encouraged school principals and other leaders to respond to concerned parents. A leaked video from a forum for more than 300 people showed Ward providing the following advice: "When people do complain, then school leadership can very calmly and graciously say, "You know what? We're doing it anyway, tough luck!"

A Safe Schools-inspired forceful position from school leadership, combined with the relentless push by the Victorian government to have these programs in all schools has had a chilling effect on parents, who are becoming increasingly afraid to raise their voices. Charlotte says: "Occasionally there are parents who are as horrified as I am, but they rarely agree out loud straight away. When you delve into the matter with them, when you provide them with a safe space to discuss it, so to speak, then small concerns creep into the open. Not every parent has as thick a hide as I do, and many are intimidated by the weight of authority carried by the government as represented by teachers and principals. She also describes how parents are kept continually in the dark about what is going on in their child's school."

Note that information on sexuality education is rarely provided in detail. It is marketed to parents and the general public as a "Necessary Good", and we are supposed to feel grateful that it's there to take the burden of uncomfortable conversations with our offspring off our weary shoulders. The problem with this view is that it promotes the abrogation of the parent's role to the educational provider, and this can lead to disruption and confusion in the family. Sadly, this account is neither unusual nor unique: the testimonies of many other parents reflect the same reality. Children are being taught radical gender ideology under the guise of "anti-bullying" programs, which, as Charlotte recounted, even teachers are uncomfortable with enforcing. Referring to her encounter with the Year 8 teacher who characterised heterosexual fathers as homophobic:

My email was escalated to my daughter's home room teacher, and another phone conversation ensued. This bore the interesting fruit when the teacher expressed concerns about the Safe Schools and Building Respectful Relationships lessons of her own. She felt that some of the materials were too risque for her Year Nine students and so modified them, and also admitted that she knew of other teachers who did not use the provided exercises at all but substituted their own. What does it say about our own government-approved and supplied classroom materials when even teachers are uncomfortable with them? Parents like Charlotte are speaking up and showing the government that the radical gender ideology in schools has to stop. It has been toppled in NSW and Tasmania, time for the rest of Australia to follow suit.

Source: Marriage Alliance Australia

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FREEDOM LAWS NEEDED

The Anglican Diocese of Sydney, along with a number of other Christian groups, has called for special legislation to enshrine freedom of belief as a "positive right" in Australia, rather than as a negative "exemption" to other legislation. The call came in a submission to the Federal Government inquiry into the "protection and promotion of the human right to freedom of religion or belief worldwide, including in Australia". "Within the boundaries prescribed by law, we should be seeking to promote the greatest (not the least) possible freedoms of religion or belief's , said the submission, signed by Bishop Michael Stead, on behalf of the Religious Freedom Reference Group, and Dr Karin Sowada, who chairs the Social Issues Committee.

"It is not prudent for legislation to call on secular courts or tribunals to arbitrate on what is or is not a church doctrine, tenet, belief or teaching," the submission said. "The law should provide for broad, not narrow, conceptions of 'religion' and 'religious organisation'." The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty likewise submitted that, "the various discrimination and equal opportunity laws do not recognise the right to manifest religious belief. Rather, exemptions are granted but, if challenged, are subject to the determination of tribunals and courts. Rarely do the religious rights of individuals succeed before tribunals and courts." Christian lawyer and expert on religious freedom, Associate Professor Neil Foster from the University of Newcastle, referred in his submission to a 'patchwork' protection for freedom of religion.

"It is past time for consideration to be given at the Commonwealth level for protection of religious freedom to be the subject of special legislation," he wrote. "The Commonwealth has undertaken to provide serious religious freedom protection by acceding to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It would be appropriate that this commitment be translated into law." The diocesan submission said changes in law relating to abortion, euthanasia and marriage could "create potential conflicts for many people of faith. We submit that there should be a general protection in Federal law that protects the individual's freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which will prevent a person being compelled in the course of their employment to perform an action contrary to conscience or religious belief."

More than 175 submissions have been received by the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which is conducting the inquiry. The subcommittee's chairman, Kevin Andrews MP, said, "Australians can be justly proud that our country has not experienced the atrocious violations of this human right that have occurred elsewhere. "Nevertheless, important questions touching on the right to freedom of religion or belief, and its relationship with other rights, have arisen in our own country in recent times. How we protect the freedom of religion or belief, promote religious tolerance and prevent violations or abuses of this right, may prove to be of significance to the wider, religiously diverse world." The diocesan submission agreed, saying our country could lead the way. "Australia has an impressive track record to date in supporting freedom of religion, and by continuing to foster and support the right to freedom of religion and belief we provide leadership and encouragement to other nations to do likewise."

Source: Anglican News Service

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AMERICA RECOGNISES JERUSALEM AS THE CAPITAL OF ISRAEL

US embassies in the Middle East and Europe are warning Americans travelling or living there of the potential for violent protests after President Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Within minutes of Mr Trump's announcement, the embassies in Turkey, Jordan, Germany and Britain issued security alerts urging Americans to exercise vigilance and caution. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government was reviewing its travel advice to the Middle East in the wake of the move. Ms Bishop said she was taking advice on the tensions in Israel and the broader region, flagging travel advice may change. Soon after Mr Trump's announcement, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets, chanting anti-Trump slogans and burning car tyres. Protests were seen in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, all over Gaza City and in the southern Gaza Strip towns of Khan Younis and Rafah.

 

Smaller protests also took place in the West Bank communities of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Mosque loudspeakers called on Gaza residents to take to the streets to express rage and protest against Mr Trump's declaration. Leaders from the Muslim world and wider international community immediately condemned the move, which overturns nearly 70 years of US policy in the region. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Mr Trump had destroyed his credibility as a Mideast peace broker. In a televised statement, Mr Abbas said the decision "is a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process." By recognising Israel's claim to Jerusalem, Mr Trump is seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict and Palestinians warned of "a days of rage" over the announcement.

 

Hamas condemned the move, declaring that Mr Trump had opened "the gates of hell," and Turkey described the move as "irresponsible" and illegal. Announcing his decision, Mr Trump described the move as an obvious and overdue recognition of reality. But he said the decision, which has sparked anger across the Middle East and among Palestinians, would not diminish America's push for a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. "I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Mr Trump declared. "This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement." Mr Trump said the move was "nothing more or less than the recognition of reality," noting that the country's prime minister, parliament and highest courts were all based in Jerusalem.

 

But he said America's recognition of Jerusalem and its plan to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv was an isolated issue. He said the decision makes no assumption about the ultimate status and the final boundaries of Jerusalem in any peace agreement concluded between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr Trump acknowledged that the decision would be unpopular with some, but said the US would continue to push for a possible peace agreement in the region and maintained that his decision would not compromise the city's geographic and political borders, which will still be determined by Israel and the Palestinians. "The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to forge such an agreement."

 

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the announcement as "historic," but pledged no change to status quo at Jerusalem holy sites. "Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews Christians and Muslims alike," he said. Ahead of Mr Trump's speech, Arab and Muslim leaders had spoken about the potential for violence. In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags. They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as their "eternal capital," language that Israelis similarly use for their nation. Egypt denounced the decision as a violation of international resolutions on the city's status. A Foreign Ministry statement said Egypt is worried about the impact of the US move on the stability of the region and about its "extremely negative" impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

 

Saudi media reported that King Salman told Mr Trump by telephone: "Any declaration on the status of Jerusalem before reaching a final settlement would harm the peace negotiation process and escalate tension in the region." The Arab League called it "a dangerous measure that would have repercussions" across the region, and also questioned the future role of the US as a "trusted mediator" in peace talks. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said: "It is out of despair and debility that they want to declare Jerusalem as capital of the Zionist regime. On the issue of Palestine, their hands are tied and they can't achieve their goals." Even America's closest allies in Europe questioned the wisdom of Trump's radical departure from the past US position, which was studiously neutral over the sovereignty of the city.

 

French president Emmanuel Macron described Mr Trump's decision as "regrettable," but called for efforts to "avoid violence at all costs." In Australia Ms Bishop told ABC radio: "We are considering whether we should change our travel advice, we are monitoring the situation very carefully, we are getting feedback from our embassy in Tel Aviv in the region." "I am deeply concerned at the level of unrest now, the fault lines between Turkey and the Kurds, between the Sunnis and the Shia, between the Saudis and Iranians. "I am concerned about the level of tension now and of course would not support any action that would add to that."

 

Ms Bishop said Australia would not follow the US President's lead and identify the contested city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "The political identification of the status of Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, That has always been our position, it has been a longstanding position from both sides of the Australian parliament," Ms Bishop said. America's consulate in Jerusalem has ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.

 

Source: A compilation of numerous media reports

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ISRAEL'S RADICAL NEW APPROACH THAT HELPS PREVENT POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS

 

The success of the Six Cs model has been documented. For example, in the summer of 2014, residents of an Israeli town on the Gaza border who were traumatized by rocket fire did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had been treated on the scene according to Farchi's protocol. When dealing with someone in psychological trauma, most people instinctively hold, calm and soothe the person. That may be well-intentioned but it's not helpful, according to clinical social worker and volunteer medic Moshe Farchi, whose counterintuitive approach recently was adopted as the Israel Health Ministry's national model for psychological first aid. Farchi is head of Stress, Trauma & Resilience Studies at Tel-Hai College, and is teaching and using his method in several other countries as well.


While serving as a reserve mental-health officer in the Israel Defence Forces over the past decade, Farchi noticed that the approaches used to help traumatized soldiers in the field simply weren't effective. Then he began seeing new research showing the scientific reasons for that failure. He determined to create a new psychological first-aid model based on the latest science and easily implemented by anyone on the scene, not only by mental-health professionals who aren't as likely to be available immediately. "I wanted to provide something the whole community could do," Farchi said. The program he devised centres on six Cs: cognitive communication, challenge, control, commitment and continuity. The Six Cs model calls for activating the traumatized person mentally and physically. Activating might mean assigning a task, asking the person to take a walk or giving them decisions to make.

 

Often those in trauma aren't hurt but have witnessed or otherwise been involved in a frightening situation. But even injured people in psychological trauma can be given small decisions in order to feel in control, says Farchi. They can be offered a drink of water or asked to direct first-responders where to stand, for instance. The success of the Six Cs model has been documented. For example, in the summer of 2014, residents of an Israeli town on the Gaza border who were traumatized by rocket fire did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had been treated on the scene according to Farchi's protocol. The scientific underpinning of this approach is dozens of studies demonstrating that the brain's centre of emotions, the amygdala, has a seesaw relationship with the brain's centre of logical actions, the prefrontal cortex.

 

"Activating the amygdala by calming the person emotionally causes the prefrontal cortex to decrease its function, and vice versa," says Farchi. "We need to reduce the dominance of the amygdala, so actually we should speak cognitively rather than emotionally." Emotional communication ("Of course you're scared") only reinforces the person's feeling of helplessness, while cognitive communication shifts attention from emotions to actions. "Instead of stabilizing the feeling of being scared, we activate the person. We might say, 'Tell me how many people are around you. Can you count them? How many people are lying down?' It takes about 90 seconds to shift the person from passiveness to a person who can be helpful to himself and others," says Farchi,

 

Since 2013, Farchi's Six Cs model has been taught to every IDF soldier. In November 2013, Farchi led a delegation from his program at Tel-Hai College to work with victims of the Philippines typhoon in coordination with Israeli humanitarian organizations Brit Olam and Natan. "People going through a traumatic event are very confused and cannot synchronize the event in logical order, and that means the endpoint of the event is also not synchronized," says Farchi, who volunteers for the Golan Search and Rescue Unit in Israel. "Subjectively that means the incident doesn't end and that's why we have flashbacks. A couple of studies showed that the window of opportunity to resynchronize the events is no more than six hours before the memory is stabilized. That's why we should assist the person to synchronize the event and emphasize that the major threat is over."

 

After a suicide bombing last May in Manchester, Farchi immediately flew over to teach community members his method and returned this summer to train first-response trainers. He went to Argentina twice to train firefighters, and has taught his method in Haiti and in Germany as a member of Natan's psychosocial team. All Israeli first responders are now learning the method, and the Education Ministry will start training high school students in Farchi's method too. "I hope in the next two or three years the whole population will know how to do this," he says. Training takes only a couple of hours. Family therapist and EMT Miriam Ballin, director of the United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, says that previously, training for the two-year-old voluntary unit's 150 mental-health workers and 150 medics was based on World Health Organization (WHO) psychological first-aid protocols.

 

"We are happy to collaborate with Dr. Farchi through the Health Ministry to implement his protocol and we hope it will allow us to give a whole other level of care to the patients we meet in distressing circumstances," Ballin said. She got an opportunity to use the Six Cs method not long afterward as part of her team's work with Houston flood victims in August 2017. "We always like to advance our skill sets. We meet people on the worst day of their lives and want to do all we can to ease them through that crisis period," she says.


 

Source: Israel21c.org

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ISRAEL STANDS WITH EGYPT AFTER MASSIVE TERROR ATTACK IN SINAI

 

More than 300 people were killed by terrorists at a mosque in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers recently, in one of the deadliest attacks in the country in recent memory. "My condolences to the families of the dozens of people murdered in the terror attack on a mosque in the Sinai," Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz tweeted. "Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with Egypt and other countries in the region and the international arena in the war against radical Islamic terror." Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that the "murderous terror attack is testimony to the fact that a new world order is being created around us, in which the distinction is between terror supporters like Iran and Islamic State, and supporters of humanity." The terror attack occurred at the al-Rawdah mosque in the northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abed.


According to Egyptian media reports, terrorist shooters using all-terrain vehicles planted bombs outside of the mosque, then detonated them and opened heavy fire on worshippers as they attempted to flee. The terrorists also set the worshippers' vehicles ablaze and used them to block escape routes. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared a nationwide three-day mourning period following the attack. Despite ongoing efforts to secure the Sinai by the Egyptian military, with clandestine help from Israel, an Islamic State-affiliated terror group has waged an insurgency in the region, perpetrating a succession of deadly attacks on Egypt's security forces and civilians, especially Christians. Many experts and officials fear that given Islamic State's recent loss of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the jihadist group will turn its attention to other lawless areas of the Middle East, including the Sinai, in a bid to bounce back and bolster its terror network.


 

Source: Breaking Christian News

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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PULLS U.S. OUT OF UNESCO CITING ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS

 

Washington cut off funding to UNESCO under the Obama Administration in 2011 because UNESCO admitted the Palestinians as full members, and the UN body retaliated by taking away the US vote in UNESCO decisions. In May of this year, UNESCO voted on Israel's Independence Day to approve a resolution rejecting any legal or historical claims by Israel to the city of Jerusalem, a move strongly condemned by the Israeli government. Then in July, UNESCO declared the city of Hebron in Biblical Judea, the final resting place of the Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to be a Palestinian World Heritage site. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert released a statement which said that the U.S. had "notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO." "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform of the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO," the statement said.

 

Source: CBNNews

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SAME SEX COUPLES A STATISTICALLY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF AUSTRALIANS

Given that our society and many basic rights are intrinsically linked to the definition of marriage, it seems strange to consider the disproportionate amount of time that was spent on the issue of same-sex marriage. While the consequences of redefining marriage were not given the necessary attention in public discourse, a significant part of the same-sex marriage lobby's argument was overrepresented: recently released census data shows that just 0.38 per cent of Australia's population are in same-sex relationships. In other words, the percentage of Australian society that will gain most by legalising same-sex marriage is less than half of one-percent. There has been an 81% increase in same-sex couples recorded in 10 years, with more than 47,000 counted in last year's census, compared with about 26,000 in 2006. 

The median age of same-sex couples was also younger, 40 years compared with 48 years for opposite-sex couples. The gender split was just about even with 49% female, of whom one-quarter (25%) had children, compared with just 4.5% of male couples who had children. Compared with Safe Schools founder Roz Ward's claim that 40 to 50 per cent of the population are homosexual, this is a much smaller, more realistic number. Same-sex marriage, while it will probably be accessed by as little as 0.38 per cent of the population, will affect every Australian. Changing the definition of marriage affects every Australian. It affects not just LGBTI Australians, it affects everybody. When discussing a legal change that affects the entire Australian population, it is important to have all of the facts straight.

The amount of government time spent on this issue shows the disproportionate amount of attention that it received. Likewise, the media and big corporate justified their amount of focus on the issue by blatantly exaggerating how large the LGBTI population is as a whole. Statistics highlight the disproportionate response to the same-sex marriage issue: The census figures indicate that there are just 46,800 gay couples in Australia, a whopping 0.38 per cent of the population. So same-sex marriage is hardly a mainstream matter. Human lifestyle choices are remarkably creative, and we can be confident that, once the definition of marriage has been amended, over time it will have to be altered to include other variant unions, such as polygamous relationships. We are in denial if we believe that the social push will simply stop at same sex marriage.

The LGBTI lobby does not just want a legal change, rather that they want to change the fundamental nature of our society. The consequences of changing the definition of marriage affects the whole of society, not just the tiny percentage of people in same-sex relationships. However, those who advocated for same-sex marriage were so vocal and active that they  successfully convinced the general public over time that the number of same-sex marriage supporters appeared much larger than it really was. The silent majority should not be ignored in order to appease the demands of a few. As a whole, Australian society has far more to lose than win by redefining marriage. The data is there: same-sex couples are drastically outnumbered. Our politicians should be looking to protect the Australian family through protecting religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.

Source: Marriage Alliance Australia

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STATEMENT REGARDING PRIME MINISTER TURNBULL'S RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS INQUIRY

The last-minute announcement by the Prime Minister that an inquiry will be held into religious freedom, only to report back next year after the Marriage Act has changed, is a betrayal of the nearly 5 million Australians who voted against same sex marriage. Once again, the Turnbull Government has failed to consult relevant stakeholders.  It is hard to view this inquiry as anything other than a thought-bubble, designed to solve a political problem for the Prime Minister. Religious freedoms were central in the debate that occurred throughout the plebiscite campaign.  Nearly 5 million Australians voted against changing the Marriage Act.  They did so out of a concern for their freedoms. Now the Prime Minister has said those freedoms need to wait.

This is not good enough, especially when the Prime Minister himself told the Australian people during the campaign that they should not be concerned, because any bill to change the Marriage Act would include strong protections for religious freedoms. Treasurer Scott Morrison is right.  This inquiry should not stand in the way of amendments protecting religious freedom being debated and supported by the parliament at the same time as the Marriage Act is amended.

Source: Media statement by the Coalition for Marriage

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ASSISTED DYING A CAUSE FOR LAMENT

The passing of assisted dying legislation in Victoria's upper house is certainly a historic day, but not one I can celebrate. For Christians and others who regard human life as having absolute value, this is a dangerous and disturbing piece of legislation, though I acknowledge that proponents of the assisted dying legislation are sincere. It represents a momentous social shift, with many doctors concerned about what it means for their profession and their duty to preserve life. I have written many times about the detailed reasons for my objections. They are recorded, for example, in the joint letter to the Premier I signed with six other Victorian bishops in late July. I hope and trust that the Act will be accompanied by a greater emphasis on palliative care, and much improved funding.

Source: A statement by Melbourne Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier

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